Wildfires in North Georgia sent smoke into metro Atlanta Monday. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Code red smog alert from smoky haze means 'unhealthy' air


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A smoky haze blanketing metro Atlanta led to a code red smog alert Monday, meaning air quality risks that extend to all groups, not just those with asthma or other respiratory issues.

Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects, according to AirNow.

Chief Meteorologist Glenn Burns has your Monday night weather forecast.

The Air Quality Index was 167 in metro Atlanta just before 9:30 p.m. That falls in the “Unhealthy” category, a more serious designation than the earlier code orange indicating conditions are “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” The "Very Unhealthy" range starts at 201.

The air quality issues are in large part due to smoke from wildfires that are burning in areas of North Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama.

RELATED: Fires raging in North Georgia

Fires have already ripped through more than 16,900 acres in the Cohutta Wilderness area of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The blazes led to a total fire ban in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and smoke in metro areas that won’t clear anytime soon.

“The air quality is getting worse as that smoke blows in,” Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brad Nitz said.

The wind pulling the smoke back into the area isn't expected to clear out until Thursday, Nitz said.

Wind speeds are expected to increase Tuesday, and so is the smoke.

“All the while the sun is shining, or trying to shine, through that smoke,” Nitz said.

Temperatures were 52 degrees in Atlanta, 40 in Blairsville and 43 in Griffin just before 9:30 p.m.

Video: www.accessatlanta.com

The Air Quality Scale used in Atlanta:

“Good” AQI is 0 to 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.

“Moderate” AQI is 51 to 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.

“Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” AQI is 101 to 150. Although the general public is not likely to be affected at this range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air. “Unhealthy” AQI is 151 to 200. Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.

“Very Unhealthy” is AQI is 201 to 300. This would trigger a health alert signifying that everyone may experience more serious health effects.

“Hazardous” AQI is greater than 300. This would trigger a health warning of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.

Here are tips from the Georgia Department of Public Health:

- Pay attention to local air quality reports and news coverage related to smoke.

- Keep indoor air as clean as possible, keeping windows and doors closed.

- Run an air conditioner, and keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean.

- Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution such as vacuuming, burning candles or using fireplaces or gas stoves.

- Do not rely on paper dust masks, which will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.

- Follow the advice of your doctor or other health care provider if you have asthma or another lung disease.

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